The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has ambitious plans to help slow the hemorrhaging pilot population through a network of as many as 1,000 flying clubs. The association, which last week held its AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif., detailed plans to link the clubs already in existence, encourage development of new ones and support the overall network.
The initiative is one of the first that its newly formed Center to Advance the Pilot Community is undertaking. Launched last month, the Center to Advance the Pilot Community is concentrating on stemming the decline in the active pilot population, which has dropped 25% from 827,000 in 1980 to 617,000 today.
AOPA sees flying clubs as a key component of that effort. Comprehensive research has found flying clubs to play a critical role in keeping aviation affordable and accessible, AOPA says. The association’s research, which involved interviews with more than 800 club members and contact with more than 600 clubs, further reveals that flying clubs keep pilots and active and engaged.
AOPA has developed starter kits for clubs, including examples of standard operating procedures and sample legal documents. The center further is also launching a web-based flying club database finder and a Facebook group. Future plans call for webinars and eNewsletters.
Senior Vice President Adam Smith, who AOPA tapped to head the center, estimates the effort will take more than a $1 million investment. Smith credits his introduction to aviation through a Scottish flying club, PTL, shorthand for Posh Jocks, Ltd.